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Millennium Bridge (London)
Member Name: lynn_bex
Millennium Bridge (London)
Date: 25/05/02, updated on 25/05/02 (164 review reads)
Advantages: Beautiful Bridge with Lovely Views, Useful Pedestrian Crossing, Makes me Smile
Disadvantages: None really... Except..., I seem to recall that suspension bridges are SUPPOSED to move a bit..., This one doesn't any more!!
Never mind. I grew up in Battersea – where we had three immediately available means of crossing the Thames: Battersea, Albert and Chelsea Bridges, all of which link Chelsea with Battersea, and which, as teenagers, my friends and I regularly used whilst mooching our way up town and back…
In those days we youngsters took our bridges and river crossings very much for granted, though we were slightly in awe of Albert Bridge, a magnificent iron suspension bridge that is lit up at night, so that sometimes, if we were feeling particularly fanciful, our crossings were almost like walking through fairyland…
Crossing the Millennium Bridge/Blade of Light during my lunch break on 9 May 2002, I felt my heart lift as the years fell away; I was again in awe of a bridge, - and still in love with the Thames.
Coincidentally, although I did not know it at the time, this was two years to the day since the inauguration or dedication of the Blade of Light by the Queen…
- We could call this symmetry, or coincidence, - but I blame fellow dooyooer ks.h, who gave me the idea of walking the Blade of Light when I read her opinion on the Gateshead Millennium Bridge the night before (?). [Only joking, Kathleen. It’s really just Lynn_Bex, - away with the fairies and being fanciful again!]
The Blade of Light is a 350 metre pedestrian bridge connecting St Paul’s Cathedral, on the North bank of the Thames, with Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe on the South Side. It is also Central London’s first new river crossing for over a hundred years which, having been dedicated by the Queen on 9 May 2000, was opene
d to the public on 10 June 2000 – AND CLOSED THREE DAYS LATER, DUE TO A WORRYING SWAY THAT DEVELOPED WHEN VISITORS BEGAN TO CROSS EN MASSE…
It seems that large numbers of people have a propensity to march in step, or at least synchronise their footfalls when moving in unison, thus causing suspension bridges and like structures to sway or “wobble”. This phenomenon had been recognised in the past, indeed Albert Bridge has warning notices prohibiting marching in step, but was seemingly overlooked by the designers of the Blade of Light.
The cynics were delighted by this turn of events.
The Millennium Dome had been ridiculed into abject failure [those of us who actually visited the Dome, and praised it, were ignored or sidelined.]
The London Eye had teething troubles [though it has since proved to be an outstanding success]
And now we had The Wobbly Bridge. “The Millennium Bug strikes again,” crowed the headlines over some rather comical pictures of people struggling across the Blade of Light… [Even Lynn_Bex had a quiet little snigger, on the basis that sometimes you just HAVE to laugh!]
But the Blade of Light is fixed now.
It re-opened to the public on 22 February 2002 and I think it is really rather wonderful:-
A steel construction, the Bridge was designed by architects Foster and Partners, in collaboration with sculptor Sir Anthony Caro and engineering company Arup, their successful design of a single sweeping arc being intended to appear as a thin ribbon of steel during the day, then, at night, when illuminated, as a blade of light across the river.
Unlike earlier suspension bridges, (including the Albert Bridge) the Blade of Light is very shallow, and incorporates the very latest technology whereby, by means of “lateral suspension” there is no need for the usual supporting columns. Instead, there are eight supporting cables, a
nchored in concrete at each end of the bridge and supported at two points in the river, from which steel “arms” support the entire structure of the bridge.
These “arms” look like wings to me and, as I rather like the idea of “flying across the Thames” I’d be grateful if dooyoo engineers would exercise restraint and NOT enlighten me as to the true meaning of “lateral suspension”!
Following the embarrassing wobble, and resultant closure of the bridge, the Millennium Bridge Trust set about raising the estimated £5-million required for repairs, and when this target was reached in February 2001, remedial works and modifications were put in hand.
The major modification was the installation of 91 dampers, similar to car shock absorbers and designed to reduce the movement of the lightweight bridge. “Walking” and “marching” tests were then undertaken by volunteers, with the results being analysed by engineering experts, until the experts were satisfied that the wobble had been cured and that the now rigid bridge could safely re-open to the public.
My lunchtime investigation on 9 May 2002 was of necessity, somewhat brief…
Working in London’s Covent Garden/Holborn area, it took me some twenty minutes to reach St Paul’s Cathedral where, as ever, masses of young tourists lounged on the famous steps – but, these days, whenever I look at those steps I think of the young Lady Diana Spencer going to her doom on that 1981 wedding day.
From St Paul’s it was a short walk down Peter’s Hill – and there was the beautiful Blade of Light, leading across the river to Tate Modern (on the right) and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (on the left). There were lots of tourists when I was there, plus school groups and ordinary Londoners going about their business, so I joined the throng and crossed, pausing from time
to time to look up and down river at the sights, which include Tower Bridge in one direction and the Oxo Tower the other way. I strained my eyes for a glimpse of the London Eye but could not spot the structure, due to a bend in the river, though on a clear day I imagine that you would be able to see the highest capsules, (this was not important to me, as I can see the Eye whenever I glance out of the office window beside my desk, but it has become a point of reference to many Londoners, over the past couple of years.)
Upon reaching the south bank of the Thames I just had time to nip inside Tate Modern (just to take a very quick look, so as to say that I’d been!) and then zoom along to Shakespeare’s Globe for a closer look at the impressive reproduction of the Bard’s original Theatre.
Then, it was back over the Blade of Light towards St Pauls, always a magnificent sight, with just a little time to glance at the river traffic moving up and down the Thames.
I will definitely be making this journey again, when I have much more time to properly appreciate the views – and hopefully enough time to take a guided tour of the Globe and, maybe, to investigate the modern art on display in Tate Modern.
How to reach the Blade of Light:-
By Rail - Blackfriars, Cannon Street and London Bridge Stations are all within walking distance.
By Tube – To the north of the bridge, St Pauls, Mansion House, Cannon Street, and Blackfriars are probably the nearest stations. To the south, Southwark, Borough and London Bridge are nearest.
By Bus – Bus travel is my favourite way of getting about within Central London and you are spoilt for choice when it comes to reaching the Blade of Light. To the north of the river, the following are some of the routes passing nearby: 4, 11, 15, 17, 23, 25, 26, 76, 100, and 172.
To the south of the river, I recommend the brand new bus rou
te “Riverside 1” – bus number RV1. These eco-friendly state of the art single-deck buses have on board flat-screen information screens, which not only show passengers where they are, but provide a picture of the next stop. The service starts daily at 6.00 am and runs until midnight; from 7.00am (8.00am on Sundays) the buses run at a ten-minute frequency.
The starting points at each end of the RV1’s route are Tower Bridge and Covent Garden. The bus drivers were all specially recruited and have undergone a thorough training programme, which included visits to all the main attractions along the route so they are extremely knowledgeable and helpful.
Well, it’s taken me two weeks to write this opinion. – I hope it was worth the wait!
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